A multi-year contributor at inside linebacker, Shaun-Dion Hamilton deserves a lot more praise than he receives. It took him just two years to see lengthy playing time, and three to earn a starting role. All he did last year next to Reuben Foster was put up 64 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, two sacks, and a pair of interceptions – in just 12 games. Injured against Florida in the SEC Championship game, Hamilton was forced to miss the final two and a half matches in recovery.
Now in his Senior year, with Reuben Foster no longer lurking behind the line with him, Hamilton has been every bit the leader the Crimson Tide needed him to be. On top of that, he has already added 28 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. In a strange turn of events, Hamilton actually has looked faster this year after returning from his knee injury slightly trimmer.
The six-foot, 235 pound linebacker has been as aggressive as ever, flying all over the field. He has been given more opportunities as a pass rusher from his linebacker spot as well, with positive results. In fact, according to Alabama Football’s official site, Hamilton’s 3.5 tackles for loss against Florida State in week one were the most by any single player since Javier Arenas in 2009.
Where Shaun-Dion has noticeably improved the most is out in pass coverage. He appears more comfortable when in zone, as are most linebackers, but his newfound sideline-to-sideline quickness has helped him become a more consistent defender in man-to-man situations. Specifically, one of the most prevalent jobs from his inside spot is to cover or shadow running backs out of the backfield. Meaning that he needs to be one of the first guys there on dump-off routes, delays, quick screens, and outs.
While he may not boast world-beater size, Shaun-Dion Hamilton has a lethal arsenal of abilities and is one of the more athletic guys Nick Saban has had at inside ‘backer. He has never had the pedigree of one Reuben Foster or C.J. Mosley, but Hamilton has long been an underrated key to Alabama’s success. Few can step into roles left behind by first-round draft picks seamlessly, but the transition has been as smooth as ever. As the season rolls on and into the heart of the schedule, do not surprised to hear his name start being mentioned more seriously for awards.